The Passenger Steamers of the Thames, the Mersey and the Clyde by William Carson, Assoc. Inst. C.E. 1880 [ebook]


The Passenger Steamers of the Thames, the Mersey and the Clyde by William Carson,   Assoc. Inst. C.E. 1880.  Booklet paper covers, 8.5”x 5.5” pp. 106 plus 6 large folding plates of side elevations and plans of contemporary  steamers.


William Carson (1836-1916). Prior to presenting this paper, Carson had been Engineer and Manager, Cork Steamship Company then Engineer and Ferries Manager for the Wallasey Local Board, for whom he carried out pier and other works on the Mersey. He was motivated by the “Princess Alice” Thames pleasure steamer disaster of 1878, when a grossly overcrowded paddle vessel was sliced into by the Iron-Screw Collier “Bywell Castle”. Over 650 people lost their lives. The bulk of the paper is concerned with highlighting the differences in design between the steamers plying in the three rivers, and how these differences were in response to different traffic requirements and tidal conditions. Some suggestions are made as to how safety might be improved. For example the author is surprised to find that while on the Mersey, communication between bridge and engine room is by the simple but effective “Chadburn” telegraph, on the Thames it is still by word of mouth with the Captain calling instructions to a boy who repeats them by shouting down the engine room hatchway.

The paper itself only takes up 17 pages, the remainder being occupied by a report of the discussion following on two evenings. The contributions to this are of variable quality some plainly being made by the speaker to see his name in print, but there are some useful comments by among others, Frederick Barnwell and John Thornycroft.

The main features of interest in the publication are the beautiful large folding plates of plans and elevations of specimen steamers including

  1. Recent Thames “Above Bridge” steamer by Samuda and Co.
  2.  Recent “Woolwich” steamer by Westwood and Baillie.
  3. “Claughton” one of five similar steamers employed on the Liverpool – Birkenhead Ferry, by D. and W. Henderson.
  4. Heatherbell” for the lower and more exposed services towards the estuary mouth.
  5. “Waterlily” a slightly smaller vessel for similar services.
  6. The Clyde steamer “Lord of the Isles” by D. and W. Henderson.
  7. Proposed Clyde steamer for cart and horse traffic, with moveable platform deck.

For comparison purposes examples of American and European vessels.




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